Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kierkegaard's Concept of Faith

Merold Westphal, Kierkegaard's Concept of Faith. Eerdmans, 2014. 284 pages. ISBN 9780802868060

Westphal's KIerkegaard's Concept of Faith seeks to show the different aspects of Biblical faith according to Kierkegaard by looking at five books of Kierkegaard--Fear and Trembling, Philosophical Fragments, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Sickness unto Death, and Practice in Christianity-- and three pseudonyms. Westphal does a thorough job of analysing these texts to help the reader understand the different aspects of Kierkegard's views of Biblical faith. The book is intened for both the beginning and advanced student of Kierkegaard. The main text is for the beginning reader. The footnotes act as a second conversation with the advanced student. I was quite surprised how well Westphal was able to make Kierkegaard's ideas understandable to the reader.

Westphal is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Fordham University. His books have won awards from many organizations. He has published widely on Kierkegaard and Hegel. This is helpful since Kierkegaard's writings are a response to Hegel and his followers. Westphal is able to make this background conversation clear. Westphal and C. Stephen Evans are two of my favorite interpreters of Kierkegaard. They are both very knowledgeable about both the primary and secondary sources concerning Kierkegaard. Both have been writing about Kierkegaard for about forty years. One gets informed about the scholarly literature on Kierkegaard just by reading their works.

Kierkegaard's Concept of Faith is divided into three parts, based on three pseudonyms, Johannes Slentio, Johannes Climacus, and Anti-Climacus. The reader will learn a lot about Kierkegaard's writings through reading this book. The book is also enjoyable to read and understandable to the beginning reader of Kierkegaard.

Westphal in this book illustrates the different aspects of faith expressed in Kierkegaard's writings. The first aspect discussed in chapter one is "faith is the task of a lifetime" (18). This is a denial of the Hegelian view that faith is easy and quickly accomplished. One sees throughout the book that Kierkegaard's thinking is not an either/or but a both/and. For example, faith is both a task and a life-long quest. It is not something we can finish, then go on to another. It is also a critique that we do not go beyond faith to philosophy as Hegel thought.

Other aspects of faith are: Faith as trust in divine promises and faith as obedience to divine commands. Westphal also critiques certain views of Kierkegaard in this book: Kierkegaard was an irrationalist and an extreme inidividualist with no place for community in his thought. I enjoyed reading this book and help me to have a better understanding of Kierkegaard.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Natural Theology and the Reformed Objection

Laura L. Garcia, "Natural Theology and the Reformed Objection." In Christian Perspectives on Religious Knowledge, eds. C. Stephen Evans and Merold Westphal, 112-133. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Laura Garcia's essay, "Natural Theology and the Reformed Objection" is a response to an influential paper presented by Alvin Plantinga, "The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology." Garcia defines natural theology as "the attempt to demonstrate certain truths concerning God's existence and nature, operating from premises that are knowable by any rational person independently of divine revelation" (112). This tradition goes at least as far back as the thirteenth century with Thomas Aquinas if not earlier. The Catholic faith have argued for the compatibility of faith and reason since its beginning.

Garcia notes that Plantinga gives at least four reasons for rejecting the project of natural theology:

" (1) Philosophical proofs are not the actual source, for most believers, of their assent to God's existence and his natural attributes; (2) such proofs are unnecessary for believers to be rationally justified in their beliefs about God; (3) the project of natural theology succeed (or, less contentiously, has not succeeded to date); (4) philosophical proofs are an improper source of religious belief, since they will lead to a faith that is unstable and wavering" (112). In a surprise move, Garcia claims that those who argue for natural philosophy do not necessarily disagree with Plantinga's assertions. She states that in this essay she will try to show how Thomas Aquinas "would accept both (1) and (2) without hesitation" (112). She thinks that Aquinas would think that (3) has succeeded in some sense. An example would be the writings of Aristotle. This seems even to be supported from Romans 1 where Paul says that the divine is seen in what has been made.

In addition, she notes that "it is a dogma of the Catholic faith that the existence of God can be known with certainty from created things" (113).

She thinks the real objection lies in (4).

She shows how the proponents of natural theology is not the adversaries in this dispute. Garcia writes:

"I believe the crux of the Reformed objection to natural theology can be found in item (4), the claim that it leads to an unstable and wavering faith, that it will leave the believer susceptible to doubt and to the fluctuating tides of human opinion. Instead, believers are supposed to hold fast their faith, to resist temptations to doubt, to believe with a kind of assurance or certitude" (113). She goes on to say that the true adversaries to the Reformed objection are the evidentialists and positivists. She believes that Plantinga's project is "an attempt to preserve this assurance of faith and to show how it can be rationally justified even in the absence of compelling evidence for what believers hold" (113). Not everyone will agree with Garcia's conclusions. However, I think it is good to understand the other side in disagreeing with them. Protestants have misinterpreted Thomas Aquinas for a long time. It is good that Catholics and Protestants are talking to one another.

Garcia does a good job in addressing the objections of Alvin Plantinga. I do not know if he would necessarily agree with her that his objections are addressed. She does show that there is common ground between Aquinas and Plantinga. It seems to me that one can be both Reformed and a Thomist. The important thing is that both sides accept that faith is rational. As she says, it is the positivists and the rationalists that disagree.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Faith and Reason: Three Views

Faith and Reason: Three Views edited by Steve Wilkens; with contributions by Craig A. Boyd, Alan G. Padgett and Carl A. Raschke. IVP Academic, 2014. 185 pages. ISBN 978-0-8308-4040-3

What does faith have to do with reason? What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? This question has been asked repeatedly since Tertullian asked it 1800 years ago. Faith and Reason: Three Views seeks to answer this question through the contributions of three Christian philosophers. Carl A. Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver defends the "Faith and Philosophy in Tension" or faith against reason view. Alan G. Padgett, professor of systematic theology at Luther seminary defends the faith seeking understanding view. Craig A. Boyd, chair of the core curriculum and general studies at St. Louis University defends the synthesis of faith and reason view. Steve Wilken, professor of philosophy and ethics at Azuza Pacific university is the editor of the book. He does a good job in introducing the different views and showing at the end of the book showing where the authors agree despite their differences. In defending their views, the authors engage some of the leading Western thinkers: Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and Kierkegaard.

The first view presented is the faith and reason in tension view by Raschke. He received his Ph.D from Harvard University. He is the author of The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (2004) and other works. He makes a surprising assertion in the first sentence: "Christian Faith and Philosophy for the most part have been in tension for most part have been in tension for most of the last two thousand years" (35). Is this really true? It seems doubtful. Why would he make such an assertion. He follows with: "Ever since early Christianity spread beyond Roman Judea during the first century, the tension between faith and philosophy have remained largely resolved" (35). He seems to using these assertions to make his case of faith against reason. Raschke accuses Aquinas of simply baptizing the thought of Aristotle. This seems to be a distortion of Aquinas's view.

The second essay presented is Padgett's faith seeking understanding view. This view is similar to Boyd's synthesis of faith reason. The main difference, according to Boyd, is that he sees that "reason can play an important role as an antecedent to faith" (15). Padgett's focus is on the relationship between philosophy and theology. He believes in the autonomy of each discipline. He writes, "So far I have been arguing that the character of informal reasoning and the nature of academic disciplines suggest that while some principles of good reason will be found across the disciplines, each tradition works out its own specific standards of good thinking in the quest for truth" (104). He argues that Christian scholarship can be "excellent scholarship" and that Christian theology can learn from other disciplines, but must be allowed to do its own work. This view sees faith as foundational to thinking about the faith. Faith comes first.

The last view presented is the synthesis of faith and reason by Boyd. This might be the strongest essay presented. The author thinks the relationship between faith and reason is similar to the relationship between nature and grace. This idea is that grace perfects nature. It does not destroy it. The author defines his different terms and characterizes three types of reason. Boyd seems to side with the Catholic tradition of Thomas Aquinas about the relationship of faith and reason. I see the biggest difference between Boyd's view and the other is how complete was the fall. The other views seem to accept a total corruption or a total depravity; while, Boyd seems to support the Catholic view of a wounding of nature, but not a complete destruction.

All three authors make a strong case for their view of the relationship of faitha nd reason. This discussion has been going on since Tertullian's famous remarks about what has faith to do with reason. Those interested in this debate will be helped by this book.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Separation of Church and State

Frank Lambert, Separation of Church and State: Founding Principle of Religious Liberty. Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press, 2014. ISBN 9780881464771

Was the United States founded as a Christian Nation? Did the Founders set up a wall of separation of Church and State? How do we interpret the first amendment which has two parts: no establishment and free exercise. Frank Lambert in his new book, Separation of Church and State attempts to answer these questions and others. Lambert is a respected historian who has authored other books on religion in American life: The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America (2003) and Religion in American Politics: a Short History (2008). Lambert was motivated to write this book because he thought some authors were distorting the historical record of what actually happened at American Founding in regards to the separation of Church and State. Lambert notes, "To today's most vocal Conservative Evangelicals, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by latter-day liberals. However, that position is undercut by evangelicals of the Revolutionary Era who fought hard for the doctrine of separation as a constitutional safeguard of religious liberty" (12).

The first chapter is a critique "of the Christian Right who are unanimous in demonizing 'academic historians' as tools of secular and liberal perspectives" (13). This was my favorite chapter of the book. IN this chapter he discusses the methods of historians and show how the Christian Right historians distort history. He examines the writings of David Barton, Timothy LaHaye, John Eidsmoe, and others. He charges that "rather than pursuing a systematic and comprehensive investigation of the nation's founding that begins with probing questions, the Christian Right historians start and end with preconceived answers" (33). Lambert finds that the qualifications and practices of these "historians" are severely deficient.

The "remaining" four chapters analyses the historical record in regards to the claims made by the Christian Right historians. Chapter two explores the historical documents to see if America was founded as a Christian nation. This is a popular question currently. Some evangelical historians have argued that it was not. The author argues that "Puritans did indeed establish Christian states, but delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 chose to ignore them in favor of a secular frame of government" (64). The author thinks that "Christian Right historians conflate English settlement of North America in the early seventeenth century with the establishment of the republic in the late eighteenth century" (64). In other words, the Puritans in New England, in some sense, set up a Christian state; the American founders at the Federal convention did not establish a Christian nation.

Chapter three examines the claim "that present-day 'secularists' and 'liberals' have distorted the place and importance of religion in America's past" (14). In this chapter he examines the historical documents that records the history of the Great Awakening. The author has written other books on the eighteenth-century revival known as the Great Awakening. He examines about the Enlightenment at this time. He shows how the religious record shows America to be "both deeply sacred and deeply secular" (15). This phenomenon continues to puzzle non-Americans.

The last two chapters examines the concept of separation of church and state. Chapter 4 looks at the place of religion in the state constitutions and chapter 5 examines separation of church and state in the federal constitution. The author shows how separation of church and state has not harmed religion but has made it more vibrant. We have the paradox that America is both secular and religious.

Frank Lambert in his book, Separation of Church and State shows himself to be an excellent historian. He shows how Christian Right historians writings fall short of the standards of historical scholarship. They do not deal adequately with the historical sources and in some cases distort it. They show themselves to be motivated by a political agenda not the seeking of truth. This book is intended for generally educated reader who is not a specialist in American history. This book is recommended for those interested in this important topic.

Reading the Philosophers

I had an interesting conversation with a friend at a Faculty/Staff dinner. WE were talking about reading and I mentioned that I did not take a philosophy course in completing three academic degrees,. My friend was completely shocked. She knew I read philosophers regularly. I probably read philosophical books more than any other kind of books. How did this happen?

I guess we can blame it on C. S. Lewis and some authors. I began reading Lewis in college. I fell in love with his work. I read many of his works several times. Then I read the secondary literature on his work. This is when I stumbled on the work of Peter Kreeft. I began not to read only what he wrote about Lewis but all his works. I read certain works of Kreeft repeatedly. Kreeft led me to atleast three other authors: Thomas Aquinas, James V. Schall, and Josef Pieper.

My first big introduction to Aquinas came by reading Kreeft's Summa of the Summa. I have read this book multiple times. I have also read Pegis's and other anthologies of Aquinas's writings. Reading Aquinas changed my life.

I think of Father Schall as my teacher. He is now over ninety and recently retired. I never tire of re-reading his works. The first book I read by Schall was Another Sort of Learning. Reading Schall has also changed my life. I can never repay the debt I owe to him.

Two other author that have influenced by thinking are Josep Pieper and Mortimer Adler. I have read their works repeatedly. I find myself having similar interests as Mortimer Adler. He has taught me to become a better reader. All these authors have taught me the importance of the life of the mind. AS Father Schall says there are rich pleasures that go with the life of the mind.

These are some of the authors that called me out to pursue philosophy, or the love of wisdom. I never tire of reading the great philosophers and thinking about the truth of things.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reading for Pleasure

I often read books for intellectual and spiritual growth. Other times I read to support my work as teacher and librarian. Sometimes I like to read just for the pleasure of reading. Recently, I decided I needed to read a book just for pleasure. I picked up a book I had read before that I enjoyed reading. The book is Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. Berry is one of my favorite writers and I have read many of his books. Jayber Crow is an interesting story. It tells the story of a young boy orphaned at ten and sent to an orphanage. During a revival meeting he accepted a call to the ministry. To receive training for this calling he go to a theological school. After being at the school one year he leaves the school and return to his original home before being orphaned and becomes a town barber. In some sense he lives out God's calling as a barber. This story resonates with my own story. I too soon after conversion felt a call to ministry. I attended Louisiana College, a Baptist institution, to prepare for the ministry. After one year I decided to return home and study at a state university. After receiving my B.A. I attended New Orleans Baptist Seminary. After being at the seminary for one term I decided the ministry was not for me. Instead, I returned to the state university to pursue a graduate degree in History. That was twenty four years ago. From hindsight I believe I made the right decision.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Introduction to Kierkegaard

Peter Vardy, An Introduction to Kierkegaard. Hendrickson, 2008. 109 pages. ISBN 978-1-59856-345-0.

I had been reading E. Stephen Evans' introduction to Kierkegaard. I found it somewhat dense in some spots. I had already read Peter Kreeft's new book on Socrates and Kierkegaard. I enjoyed it. It was mostly an overview of Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments. I decided I needed an introduction to Kierkegaard for a beginner. I found Peter Vardy's An Introduction to Kierkegaard just what I needed. He does an excellent job of explaining Kierkegaard to a beginner. It probably helps that he has been teaching Kierkegaard to undergraduate students for 25 years. Vardy is Vice-Principal of Heythrop College, the specialist Philsophy and Theology college of the University of London. Other books authored by Vardy are The Puzzle of God, The Puzzle of Sex, The Puzzle of Ethics, and Being Human.

An Introduction to Kierkegaard includes eleven chapters. Topics discussed in these chapters are Kierkegaard's life, faith and reason, truth, stages of life, ethics, love, dialogue with other religions, and Kierkegaard's criticism of the institutional church. Vardy states that Kierkegaard has influenced him "more than any other thinker" (ix). This introduction does not treat Kierkegaard's works exhaustively. He does well as providing a basic overview of Kierkegaard's thought. It is an excellent book for one just beginning to read Kierkegaard.

Vardy argues that if Jesus is God certain things follow: "The truth that is revealed in Jesus' life is not like that of Gandhi or Socrates;" the supreme importance of the incarnation as a "decisive event in human history;" for an individual to accept the message of the gospel "is not like acquiring one more piece of information;" (This is Walker Percy's argument in his parable, "The Message in the Bottle") the moment when accepts the incarnation and decides to take it seriously the Eternal Truth that Jesus brings will be decisive" (12). In other words, the incarnation is not like any other event. In it the eternal entered the temporary. E. Stephen Evans does an excellent job explaining these thins things in his commentary on Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments which I was reading at the same time I was reading Vardy's introduction to Kierkegaard.

Two other points that followed from the incarnation argued by Vardy are that "KIerkegaard . . . equates error with sin" and sin is not the opposite of virtue. If Jesus is God and we do not recognize the fact, then we are in error. Hardy thinks that this "is to assert the primacy of human reason and to refuse to accept a revelation that goes beyond reason" (13). In addition, "if someone moves from refusal to accept that Jesus is God to an acceptance of this, then this is a move from error to truth, from sin to faith" (13). There are many ways that Christians see the relationship between faith and reason. Three major ways are faith against reason, the synthesis of faith and reason, or faith above reason. Kierkegaard seems to argue either for faith against reason or faith above reason. Some argue that Kierkegaard is an irrationalist, but this does not seem to be the case. This relationship between faith and reason has captured my attention for over thirty years. I have been studying how Aquinas and Kierkegaard understand this relationship. Are there positions diametrically opposed? Can they be reconciled? This is something I am trying to find out in regards to the writings of Walker Percy.

An Introduction to Kierkegarrd by Peter Vardy does a good job in providing a concise overview of Kierkegaard and his thought. It is a good place to begin reading about Kierkegaard. He provides a recommended reading list for those who want to go further. The book is well-written and easy to understand. One does not need prior knowledge of Kierkegaard to understand it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Christian Humanism

R. William Franklin and Joseph M. Shaw, The Case for Christian Humanism. Eerdmans, 1991. ISBN 978-0-8028-06062

Readings in Christian Humanism edited by Joseph M. Shaw, R.W. Franklin, Harris Kaasa, and Charles W. Buzicky. Fortress Press, 2009. Originally published 1982. ISBN 978-0-8006-6464-0

I have to confess that until a few years ago I had very little knowledge about Christian Humanism. I was familiar with the idea of secular humanism. However, I was also familiar with the Humanism of the Renaissance. I discovered that Christian Humanism was an important topic, so I chose these two books two learn more about it. The first book describes what it is and the second book is an anthology of readings on the subject from the ancient world to modern times.

It might be best to offer a definition of Christian Humanism. The authors in The Case for Christian Humanism provides a preliminary definition early in the book: "Christian humanism points to the deep interest in human beings, their life, well-being, culture, and eternal significance that belongs to the Christian faith. Central to that faith is Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God and brother to every human being. Christian humanism shares with other humanistic philosophies the desire to protect and enhance human existence, but it is unique in finding the source and goal of human powers in God the Creator, Redeemer, and Spirit" (5).

The authors argue for the importance of Christian humanism for Christians today. They think some Christians falsely believe that all humanists are anti-god. In contrast, the author argue that many humanists are Christians and that "it is possible to be a Christian humanist" without watering down the faith. The authors note, "Christians who are humanists have not added some liberal twist to the Christian faith but have listened to what the biblical message has to say about human concerns" (5). Christian humanism affirms that the creation is good, though fallen. God calls us to redeem his fallen creation. Second, it emphasizes the incarnation of Christ.

The Case for Christian Humanism is divided into four parts: Part I: Affirming Christian Humanism; Part II: Biblical Teaching; III: Worship; Part IV: Theology. Part one describes Christian humanism. Part two provides the biblical background of Christian humanism. Part three shows how Christian humanism is found in worship. The last part shows how the doctrine of God provides light on Christian humanism.

The second book, Readings in Christian Humanism provides readings from major authors on the topic of Christian Humanism. The authors note, "this book presents a selection of writings on humanism from the perspective of Christian faith. The authors state in the introduction that "Christian humanism is the interest in human persons and the positive affirmation of human life and culture which stems from the Christian faith."

The book is divided into six parts including an epilogue. The first part looks at Jerusalem and Athens: Plato, Aristotle, and the Bible. Part two includes writings from the first four centuries of the church. Some of the authors included are Justin Martyr, Jerome, and Augustine. Part three covers the Middle Ages. Authors included in this section include Anselm and Aquinas. Parts four and five include writings from the Renaissance and the Reformation. Writers include Petrarch, Erasmus, Luther and Calvin. Part six covers from the the seventeenth century to modern times. Some of the authors included are Pascal, Milton, Bunyan, Wesley, and Walker Percy.

The authors provide an introduction at the beginning of the book and present introductions to each section. The authors provide the essential features of Christian humanism in the introduction:

1. Human nature under God.
2. Human sinfulness.
3. An orderly universe.
4. Human responsibility.
5.The human will and its freedom.
6. Community.
7. Human gifts and talents.
8. History and human destiny.

 Reading through the book I was pleased with the selections. The selections were worth reading as an end in itself. However, one could see through readings that covered over two thousand years how Christians and others have affirmed life and human flourishing. This is a rich anthology that is well worth the time spent reading it. The authors show that Christian humanism is a vital tradition that must not be lost.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Elements of Library Research

Mary W. George, The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know. Princeton University Press, 2008.

The Elements of Library Research aims to provide the tools that every college student needs to do college level research. It is intended for the undergraduate student but would be helpful to other groups. The author says her "intended audience includes novice researchers in any rigorous academic setting" (xii). I believe she is right but I think even experienced researchers can retool their toolbox or learn new skills that will be helpful.

When Mary George wrote this book she was acting head of reference and senior reference librarian at Princeton University Library. She has several years of experience helping students and faculty to do research.

The Elements of Library Research does a good job in presenting the key elements of the process of the research. It show how to determine a topic to finishing the research project. She does a great job of showing the reader how to interact with sources. George not only describes the process of research, she also describes the "logic" of the process. George's book "focuses entirely on basic concepts, strategies, tools, and tactics for research." In addition, the author draws on decades of experience of her own personal research. She has taught a range of groups to do research from college freshman to doctoral students.

The author provides a chart of the research process and describes each step:

Motivation or assignment--Topic Selection--Imagination--Research Questions--Research Plan--Reference Works & Databases--Sources--Evaluation--Insight--Thesis--Argument & Outline--Drafting & Revising

The reader will find this book as an excellent tool on the process of research. It is reader friendly, even a high school student could understand it. The author writes well and the book is a quick read. The book is divided into five chapters:

1. Introduction to Research as Inquiry
The author argues that "library research is a form of structured inquiry with specific tools, rules, and techniques" (1). A big part of this research is our interaction with sources.

2. From Research Assignment to Research Plan.
George does a good job of defining the concepts she uses in this text. In chapter two she gives a basic map that the book will follow.

3. Strategy and Tools for Discovery
In this chapter she discusses different search strategies for finding the sources you need.

4. The Fine Art of Finding Sources
This chapter provides additional strategies for finding sources.

5. Insight, Evaluation, Argument, and Beyond.
This is a very helpful chapter. It shows different ways of interacting with resources. In addition, it describes the process of getting insight from the sources. Thirdly, it teaches how to evaluate sources. Last it distinguishes between an outline and an argument.

The Elements of Library Research is a well-written manual on the research process. It provides many tips on improving one's research. It also provides a road-map that can guide the research of the reader. This book is recommended for those who want to improve their research or if the reader struggles with the research process.   

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.

I have wanted to read Brave New World for several years. I had read books that discussed similar themes: C.S. Lewis's Abolition of Man, George Orwell's 1984, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. So when one of the members of our book club recommended that we read it, I was glad.

In Brave New World Aldous Huxley presents us with a future Utopia "in which humans are processed, conditioned, regimented, and drugged into social conformity." The story is set in a future London and focuses on the "misadventures" of Bernard Marx. Bernard is unhappy with his life in this society, so he takes his girlfriend, Lenina, to visit an Indian Reservation in the American Southwest. The Brave New World allows certain unfit individuals to live in uncivilized societies. This is quite ironic since in the Brave New World does not affirm the sanctity of life. One could say it is a culture of death. It could be related to Walker Percy's Thanatos Syndrome. 

While visiting this Indian reservation Bernard and Lenina comes in contact with John and his mother. In conversations with John finds out that John's mother is from the Brave New World and was accidentally left on this reservation years ago. Bernard and Lenina will bring the "savage" and his mother back with them to the Brave New World. The savage is what the occupants of the Brave New World call John. At the beginning the society is enamored with this savage from the uncivilized world. Later they see that he is a danger to their society and must be exiled with his two friends, Bernard and Helmholtz.

Huxley does a good job of contrasting these two societies through the interaction of John with the Brave New World. Based on what his mother told him this is the greatest world possible. He is greatly excited when Bernard told him that he would take him to this utopian society. The savage is quickly disillusioned by this new world. A particularly strong reaction is the death of his mother which the culture tries to sanitize. The savage is horrified how this society looks at death.

The title, Brave New World, comes from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Shakespeare is a central element of this novel. The works of Shakespeare was one of the few books that John owned. He basically learned to read from it. He reads it like a devout Christian reads his Bible. He notices that the world of Shakespeare and the Brave New World are in open conflict. This is because the worldview of Shakespeare is Christian Humanism. Christian humanism affirms the sanctity of life. The world Shakespeare provides for human flourishing. The Brave New World works against human flourishing. Maybe, Huxley's Brave New World is a warning to our culture if it continues in its current path.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Long Faithfulness

Scott Mcnight, A Long Faithfulness. Patheos Books, 2013. 79 pages. ISBN 978-1-62921-469-6.

A popular saying describes the Christian life as a marathon instead of a 100 yard dash. The idea that the Christian life is a long journey. You see this idea in classical works like Pilgrim's Progress which is one of my favorite books.

A question we struggle with is why do some believers walk away from the faith. Two prominent responses are that they have the freedom to turn away or they were never believers in the first place. This latter answer seems quite weak since we have known people that have shown all the signs of being a believer and have abandoned the faith. For example, I have a cousin who was a faithful Christian till several years ago he walked away from the faith. It is hard to believe that he was never a believer since he showed all the fruits of being a believer.

Another concern addressed by A Long Faithfulness by Scott Mcnight is what is called meticulous sovereignty. The author describes meticulous sovereignty: "If God determines everything (as in the meticulous sovereignty approach), then God not only permits but must determine that some young girls and boys will be abused while others will be spared, that some adults will suffer more in this life while others less" (1-2). In other words, everything that happens is determined by God, even evil. Not long ago in a sunday school class I sought to make a distinction between God allowing and God causing events. My view was shouted down. Those who disagreed with me stated that everything that happens is caused by God. I have serious problems with this view.

Mcknight has written this book as a response to the meticulous sovereignty view. The author relates his own personal experience as a Calvinist and how he struggled with the warning passages from Hebrews which led him to see that believers do abandon the faith. He believes that God gives people free will and because of this they can abandon the faith. In a sense, he is not speaking against all Calvinists but only a certain kind. He actually thinks that Classical Calvinists and Classical Arminians both believe in the necessity of perseverance. He writes: "For the classical Calvinist and the Arminian--and I know this may sound like a bundle of hooey to many--there is precious little difference when it comes to the necessity of perseverance" (68).

Chapter one describes the author's journey with Calvinism. At Trinty Evangelical Divinity School he became Grant Osborne's Teaching assistant. One of his first tasks was to work through Osborne's "extensive notes on the Calvinist-Arminian debate" (16). This would be the first step in a long journey where he became convinced "that meticulous sovereignty was defeated by the Bible itself" (17).

In chapter two he discusses the warning passages of Hebrews. Instead of concentrating on just Hebrews 6, he discusses all the warning passages (2:1-4, 3:7-4:13, 5:11-6:12, 10:19-39, 12:1-29). He asks all the passages four questions: Who is the audience? What is the sin or danger? What are they to do? What are the consequences? I liked the idea of looking at all the passages together and asking them the same questions. The author does a good job at looking at these passages exegetically.

Personally, I still believe in eternal security or the perseverance of the saints, not necessarily once saved, always saved. I believe only those who persevere to the end will be saved. The Christian life is a journey, not a one-time decision.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Books, Reading, Family and Halloween

I like to read certain books at certain times of the year. The past few years I have read Bruce Coville's The Monster's Ring to my kids. I was thinking that I would not read it to them this year. My daughter asked me if or when I was going to read it this year. I do not remember which. I had been straddling the fence on the issue and her question convinced me that I needed to read it again.

The question is why did she wanted me to read it again. She is a great reader herself and could easily read it in a couple of hours. She is the same daughter who didn't want to learn to read because she thought I would then stop reading to her. Later, I shared with my family how Jim Trelease stated in his marvelous book, The Read Aloud Handbook, how college professors read to their students. This convinced my daughter that it was okay to learn to read.

Bruce Coville's is a modern day Junior Dr. Jekll and Mr. Hyde. The main character Russell Crannaker is bullied at school. Right before he stumles into Mr. Elives' magic shop. Mr. Elives bullies him into buying a magic ring. Russell has always been interested in magic and monsters. This magic ring turns out to be more than he bargained for. The Monster's Ring is the first of the Magic Shops books. My kids enjoyed hearing all of them read to them.

Another favorite book to read in October is Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked this Way Comes. This is a great book that requires repeated reading. It tells the story of how Halloween came early one year in a small, sleepy town. It is told from the perspective of two boys, Will and Jim, about to turn fourteen. It is an excellent companion to Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. One of the major themes in this book is good vs. evil. Bradbury makes evil so real in this book you can actually feel and taste it.

Another important character in this book is Will's father, Charles Halloway. I strongly identified with this character. He works as a janitor at the library. He is comfortable around books and could easily have been the librarian. In a time of crisis he explores the books for a way to confront the evil lurking in the shadows.

Another important theme is time. The boys are about to lose their innocence as they face pure evil. The image of the clock and time ticking away seems to be an ever-present presence. Mr. Halloway is feeling his own age. He sees his life ticking away. He is trying to make peace with the aging process and find meaning in his life. As I said, it cuts very close to home.

Both these books will provide pleasure to you in the Halloween season or any time of the year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Romantic Love versus Friendship Love

At our last book group meeting we discussed Shakespeare's Two Noble Kinsman. The major theme of the play is two cousins fall in love with the same girl which creates enmity between them. It is the old theme of romantic love versus friendship love. One wonders how romantic love or eros could separate the best of friends.

C.S. Lewis wrote about four different types of love in his book, The Four Loves. I recommend it if you have not read it before. In his book, Lewis discusses affection, friendship, eros, and charity. He calls affection need-love. It is the type of love parents have for their children and children have for their parents.

Lewis's chapter on friendship is one of the best chapters on the book. When one reads it one is reminded of the friendship of the members of the Inklings, a group that consisted of Lewis, Tolkien, and others. Lewis thinks that most people are more interested in eros than in friendship. He thinks that many modern people would not even think of friendship as love. This is not true of the people of the classical world. Lewis states, "To the Ancients, Friendship seems the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue" (57). He thinks the modern world ignores it.

Lewis describes how friendship happens: "Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one.' (65) In addition, Lewis one can be friends with two or three people at most. This seems to refer to a deep intimacy.

Lewis compares how eros and friendship are different.: "Lovers seek for privacy. Friends find this solitude about them. . . whether they want it or not." Friendship love asks, "do you seek the same truth?" or "Do you care about the same truth?"

Many people want friends. They want to find ways to get friends. Lewis seems to think this is the wrong way. He thinks that the "very condition of having Friends is that we want something else besides friends" (66). He thinks friendship needs to be about something other than our friendship.

Lewis thinks that friendship may turn into eros and eros can turn into friendship. The "co-existence" of eros and friendship shows friendship is as important a love as eros.

Reading Two Noble Kinsman I wondered why the two cousins could so easily throw away their friendship between eros. We recognize that eros is a very powerful emotion. Eros seems the only kind of love Hollywood is interested in. Lewis and other classical authors thought friendship was a very important love. It was important if we were going to live the Good Life.

Another author I thought about who had something to say about friendship was Aristotle. He wrote eloquently on the subject in his ethics. Aristotle thought there were three types of friendship. He thought that in each of these there were "mutual affection." First, there is friendship based on "utility." It is based on what the person can do for me. Second, there is the friendship "based on pleasure." This concerns people's changing interest. This is similar to what Lewis said about common interests.  The third type of friendship is based on virtue or goodness. Aristotle writes, "Only the friendship of those who are good, and similar in their goodness, is perfect. For these people each alike wish good for the other qua good, and they are good in themselves. And it is those who desire the good of their friends for their friends' sake that are most truly friends, because each other loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality." This almost seem like charity love: willing the good for someone else and acting on it. Aristotle thought friendship was more than a feeling. It was also a state of being and an activity. He also thinks we were made for friends or companionship. We were not meant to be isolated individuals separated from community.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God

Evans, C. Stephen. Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God. Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 1996. 154 pages.

Here is what two prominent Evangelical authors have said about this book:

"Comprehensive and compelling. . . . Seekers will find here a knowledgeable but gentle voice responding to their deepest religious questions."
                                                                      --- Merold Westphal

"One of the best popular apologetics I have seen."
                                                           --- Arthur F. Holmes

Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God has been a popular apologetics book for some time. I had read it several years ago and decided to pick it up again to see how it applied to my current research on Walker Percy. The idea of looking for signs that point to God is a major theme in Percy's novels. I am currently reading Walker Percy's Last Gentleman with pen in hand. It is a great book. In it, Will Barrett is waiting for a sign to tell him who he is. Another important non-fiction book by Walker Percy is Signposts in a Strange Land. This is a collection of popular non-fiction written by Percy. I like the title of this book because of the prominence it gives to sign seeking.

What does sign seeking have to do with the search for God? One major thing concerns whether God has left us any signs of his existence. Another question is whether the existence of God can be proven. Evans is a Kierkegaard scholar and does not believe that Christian faith can be proven with absolute certainty. In other words, reason cannot bring us all the way to Christian faith. I have been intrigued for a very long time on the relationship of faith and reason in coming to believe in Jesus Christ.

Evans wrote this response to one of his students committing suicide. He writes:

"I tried to help Andrew see Christian faith as a live option, but I was, to my knowledge, unsuccessful. After spring vacation I received a brief note from the dean of students, requesting a meeting. There I was informed that Andrew had taken his own life.(iX).

This experience made a great impact on the author's life. He felt he should have done more to persuade his student or shown him that Christianity was a valid choice. He was also angry at our culture for making it difficult for his student to believe. He wanted to write a book for this student and others like him. Evans notes, "I am under no illusion that religious faith is usually or even ever the result of intellectual argument alone. The roots of faith lie much deeper. Still, the sense that Christian faith is simply unacceptable to a person with an intellect who cares about truth can be a powerful barrier to faith. This book is an attempt to remove the barrier" (x).

Evans is a professor of philosophy at Baylor University. He has published many important books on Kierkegaard and other topics. This book is written for a popular audience and is easy to read. He uses stories to illustrate the chapters. He writes well and is easy to understand. In chapter one, he sets up the foundation for discussion by talking about faith. In this chapters he describes some different barriers to belief. An example of a barrier would be modern skepticism. He thinks faith is part of being human. He notes, "Each of us has a faith-dimension. None of us can avoid faith in something or someone. We must believe in something or someone because we must have something or someone to live for" (9).

In chapters four through six, Evans points to three mysteries that point to the existence of God: the universe, the moral order, and the existence of persons. He calls these pointers clues. We can deny them but if the person is serious about his religious quest, they can point him or her to God. He asks the question, what is mysterious about the universe? It did not have to exist. Why something, instead of nothing? The second clue is the "purposive order" in the universe. Why is the universe orderly? The third clue is the existence of a moral law. He discusses certain naturalistic answers that seek to explain the sense of morality away. The author states, "If God exists, nothing is more natural than that we should experience a moral ought" (46). The author believes these things make sense if God wanted to leave us signs of His presence but did not want to force us to believe.

In other chapters, Evans discusses miracles, evil, Jesus Christ and other barriers to belief in Christ. In the last chapter he discusses making a commitment to Christ. In this chapter he discusses faith and doubt, the possibility of truth, differences in religions, and making a "reasonable choice." He recognizes there is a sense of mystery when someone comes to believe in Christ. The author believes that a reasonable choice is made when "that position makes more sense than its rivals" (143).

Evans does a good job in showing why it is reasonable to believe in Christ. It is not a leap into the dark. It is a leap into the light.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Faith, Doubt, and Unbelief

I became a Christian when I was eighteen years. Not long after becoming a Christian I went to college. I like to think of the university as the place of reason and the church as the place of faith. I fell in love with learning while pursuing my studies at the university. I began to experience doubts about many of the things I believed. I sought through books and others assistance in wrestling with these doubts. It was a joyful journey and continues to be. I have been a Christian for over thirty years and I have struggled with doubts most of that time.

A couple of years ago two of our professors at the school I work spoke about doubt and the Christian faith in an honest and open way in chapel. I do not know if I had heard similar sermons before. It motivated me to do some research and present a paper on Faith and Doubt at a conference held at Faulkner University. I learned many things in preparing for this presentation. One of the things I learned is that we cannot will doubt away. A second thing is that doubt is part of faith. Third, doubt can be a healthy thing.

I am generally a person of reflective nature. I get great joy ruminating over things. Recently, I have been reflected how I have not been afflicted with doubts lately. It really has surprised me since I have been afflicted with doubts most of my Christian life. I am not saying that doubt does not pop up, but it is different that it once was. I am wondering why this is so. One of the conclusions I have come up with is that I have accepted that we cannot will our doubts away. A second thing is I have come to believe that we cannot have absolute certainty in regards to faith. Faith is something different.

I have been reading Kierkegaard and C. Stephen Evans lately. Both of these authors emphasize the importance of faith. They also point out that faith does not give absolute certainty. I agree with them. I do not think faith and knowledge are the same thing. I think Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin will agree with them. I accept both faith and reason. However, I believe that we walk by faith in this life and absolute certainty is not necessary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life

Douglas J. Schuurman, Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life. Eeerdmans, 2004. 190 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8028-0137-1.

Douglas J. Schuurman's Vocation: Discerning our Callings in Life has become my favorite book on Christian calling. The term calling tend to be associated with those who become pastors, ministers, staff positions in the church. Martin Luther and John Calvin brought forth the original idea that all Christians are called. These leaders thought of two types of callings. There is the general calling to follow Christ and there is the specific calling of serving God in all our callings: work, marriage, church, community, and other spheres. Schuurman thinks this idea has fallen on hard times. He seeks to recover this Reformation teaching for our day. He does not accept everything about the Reformation view of calling, but critiques its weaknesses and adds current information to make it more applicable.

The author explains his purpose: "My primary aim in this book is to develop a contemporary articulation of the classic Protestant doctrine of vocation. This doctrine and the religious impulse it reflects have had a profound influence upon the way many Christians understand and integrate faith and life, but in recent years core aspects of Protestant vocation have come under assault by our culture and by non-Christian and Christian thinkers alike" (xi). A few years ago I presented a paper on Librarianship as Christian Ministry at a national conference. During my research I read research that showed that 50%  or more religious librarians thought the concept of librarianship as a calling was not helpful or did not believe it. Many Christians think only ordained ministers have a ministry. Some of us, however, still think that the Protestant doctrine of vocation is still an important concept. It helps to provide meaning to our work.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I was having a conversation on the idea of calling. We observed that we knew of multiple people who felt a call to ministry and went to school to receive training. After training they went back to their "secular" jobs. We wondered about this. We know of many who hate their jobs. They do not like what they do. They do not see their work as connected to their calling as a Christian. The teaching of calling or vocations helps us from living fragmented lives. It gives us a purpose for living. God created the world and declared it good. We participate in His work when we love our neighbor and meet human needs.

Vocation includes seven chapters. In chapter one the author argues why he think the Protestant doctrine of vocation is still a useful concept. He notes that this teaching of vocation comes from both "the Lutheran and Reformed wings of the Protestant Reformation" (4). According to this teaching "all relational spheres--domestic, economic, political, cultural--are religiously and morally meaningful as divinely given avenues through which persons respond obediently to the call of God to serve their neighbor in love" (4).

The author provides biblical support for the doctrine of vocation in chapter two. He states there are two "primary meanings" for vocation in the Bible. The first is more general; it is the call to "become a member of the people of God and to take up the duties that pertain to that membership" (17). Second, is "God's diverse and particular callings--special tasks, offices, or places of responsibility within the covenant community and in the broader society" (17). In addition, the author states how vocation is associated with both providence and gifts. The author notes how the Apostle Paul use of calling and gift "interchangeably. . . implies ...or suggests that gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. . . are also callings" (30). He also shows how the Bible speaks of callings to secular spheres.

In chapter three the author provides a theology of vocation. He describes different religious affections that are necessary for fulfilling our vocation. These affections are dependence, gratitude, obligation, and meaning. The author notes, "God's call to devote everything we are and do to Christ and to service of God and neighbor brings unity to our lives. Paid work, home life, recreation, friendships are all particular callings in response to this one call" (66). I appreciate his emphasis that calling is not connected only to paid work. In addition, he discusses "helps" for helping us to discern and fulfill our vocation.

The author in chapter three responds to critiques on the doctrine of vocation. In the first part of the chapter he lists the proper uses of vocation. Some of these are serving the common good, promoting good, restraining evil, and shalom. He notes, "shalom is a condition of wholeness, of health and flourishing to the fullest extent" (80). In the second part of the chapter he responds to critiques of vocation. One of these is turning work into an idol. Another one is feeling an obligation to only those under our charge. A third accusation is that it emphasizes self-love. A fourth charge is that it acts as a cover for injustice. The author does a good job in responding to these charges showing both the strengths and weaknesses of the critique.

Chapters five and six cover more about career choice and long-term decisions. These are topics most people think about when they hear the topic vocation. The author provides much wisdom in these chapters. The author shows how our society in different from society in the time of the Protestant Reformation. For example, we have more freedom in choosing a career or a mate. One problem with our society is the emphasis on self-fulfillment. He also disputes the bull's eye view of calling. The idea that God has only one particular person or job for us. Another problem is the belief that to "have a calling [one] must hear God's voice and see tangible signs of God's presence" (127). The author does not believe that it is not possible for God to do this, but that in the majority of the chases He does not work this way.

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings in Life is an excellent book for those who want to integrate their faith in their life. I have underlined something in almost every page of this book. I think this is my third time to read it. It has been very encouraging each time I have read it. There is not much I disagree with in this book. It helped me to see that my work is a calling from God, but it is not the only calling I have. God provides us with gifts for all our callings. He also put us in places where we are to serve Him and our neighbor. If you are looking for a book to provide meaning to your work and life, you might want to give this book a try.

Other books on Calling and Vocation I have read that I would recommend are Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We should be edited by Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass; Here I am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing? by Quentin Schultze; Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor by Ben Witherington.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Darkness IS My Only Companion

Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Darkness is my Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006.

The death of Robin Williams recently caused some discussion on mental illness. There are many myths that circulate about mental illness and those who suffer from it. For example, much reference was made to that popular saying, "Know Christ, Know Peace; No Christ, No Peace." I find that the implication that people who suffer from mental illness is because they do not know Christ is completely false. Even devout Christians suffer from mental illness. Another false idea is that if these people pray more and read their Bible, the problem will go away. I find these simplistic answers increases the suffering of those who struggle with mental illness. Mental illness has physical causes which these myths seem to ignore.

An alternative source that seeks to educate those who suffer from mental illness and those who love and care from them is an excellent book by Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Darkness is my Only Companion. McCreight has a Ph.D from Yale University, is assistant priest at St. John's Episcopal Church and teaches at Albertus Magnus College. Not long after the birth of her second child, the author experienced severe depression that was on and off for several years. After five years, she was diagnosed as manic, and therefore, bipolar. In other words, sometimes she was manic, other times she was clinically depressed. After several years, she and her doctor "finally stumbled upon the right 'cocktail'" for her brain and she has "steadily improved." By both her experience and knowledge, the author speaks authoritatively on the subject of mental illness. She is also a trained theologian who can speak as a Christian on the topic.

McCreight states that after her diagnosis she tried to find books to answer the questions she had, but she was unsuccessful. Some of her questions were: "Does God send this suffering? If so, why? And why this particular kind of suffering? Why, if I am a Christian, can I not rejoice? What is happening to my soul?" Since she was unable to find a book which answered her questions, she decided to write one herself. This reader is glad she did. She notes: "Most of the books answered scientific questions, which were in themselves not uninteresting to me. However, I wanted a book that would ask not purely scientific questions about these illnesses and sets of symptoms but religious questions, and not just any religious questions but a specifically Christian set of questions. What is the problem of  of suffering and evil viewed from the Christian gospel? How therefore might a Christian respond in the face of mental illness? How is the soul affected by the disease of the mind, indeed of the brain? Does the Christian tradition offer resources for coping with mental illness and for explaining its origin and healing? (12). The author addresses these questions throughout the book. Even people not suffering from mental illness but experiencing trials and difficulties will benefit from this book. There are some similarities between physical and mental illness. It is hoped that sometime soon people will see that severe mental illness is a serious disease with serious consequences. It is hoped that we will try to better understand the disease and provide the support people need who struggle with this illness.

Darkness is my Only Companion is divided into three parts and thirteen chapters. In the first part (chapters 1-6) the author describes her struggle with the illness. She discusses mental illness in a general way and how it affected her personally. She includes theological reflections on the illness and her experience. In part two (chapters 7-11) McCreight explores more thoroughly the theological questions she had. She discusses how prayer and scripture assisted her struggles. The author analysis of the relationship of faith and emotions was quite helpful and interesting. In part three (chapters 12-13) the author provides helpful instruction for family, friends, and clergy. The last chapter discusses methods of choosing the right therapy and treatment.

This excellent book provided much help in this reviewer's own question. How was this author suffered from manic-depression able to work a job? What are some the major types of treatment for those who suffer from severe mental illness? Should patients take medicine? What happens when the individual must be hospitalized? Should Electroconvulsive treatment ever be done? How to prevent suicide in the patient? These and many other questions I had was addressed and answered by this book.

One important point to make is that there is no generic case of mental illness. Some individuals might not be able to work a regular job. Different individuals will experience mental illness differently. We should never judge one person based on the experience of another person. I am always worried when I write about mental illness it will cause someone to suffer more.

Darkness is My Only Companion is a reference to Psalm 88: "My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion." The author refers to Scripture often in this book. The book clearly shows that as an Episcopalian, she has been helped by prayer, tradition, community, and written prayers. This is an excellent book to learn more about mental illness and how to support others who suffer from this illness.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is the Reformation Over?

Is the Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism by Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom. Baker Academic, 2005. ISBN: 0-8010-2797-7.

I was not sure what the book was about by reading the title. Were they saying the issues of the Protestant Reformation no longer exist. I am not assuming that there was only one reformation by using it in the singular. I understand that there were many Reformations: Catholic, Zwinglian, Lutheran, Calvinian, AnaBaptist, British. Do the issues that that divide the Chucrh no longer exist. This made me interested in what this book might want to say.

The subtitle provides a little more information: "An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism." What does that mean? So I picked up this book not sure of what I would get. One thing I did know is one of the authors of the book. Mark Noll is well-known as an excellent and thorough scholar. He recently wrote, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. My respect for Noll grew after reading this book. I think he shows great understanding and charity in evaluating Roman Catholicism according to evangelicalism. Some evangelicals might thought he went too far in his charitable view. I know some evangelicals who have told me that Noll is too Catholic which would surprise Noll. Please forgive me for not mentioning Nystrom more, but I am unfamiliar with her work and am not sure how much this book is shared by the two authors. All the book said that she was a freelance writer.

I found it interesting that the book is dedicated to J. I. Packer. It would be difficult to doubt the evangelical credentials of Packer. He, however, has received criticism with his work in Catholic-Evangelical discussions. An interesting part of the book is some of the responses by more conservative evangelicals like R. C. Sproul.

Is the Reformation Over? is a historical work which Noll is greatly qualified to accomplish with the knowledge of his historical work in other writings. It was very surprising how relations between Protestants have changed so much since World War II and Vatican 2. It was also encouraging to see Catholics and Protestants working together instead against each other. The authors in this book basically argue that relations between Catholics and Protestants are not like they "used to be."

The authors state that "by asking if the Reformation is over, we mean to use the classic ideals of the Protestant Reformation to measure contemporary Catholic Christianity. Sola scriptura (the Bible as supreme authority), sola fide (salvation by grace alone through faith alone), and the priesthood of all believers . . . were Protestant rallying cries" (15). The authors state that this book is intended to evaluate contemporary Roman Catholicism based on this criteria. In the conclusion the authors argue that the question of the book is not an easy question to answer.

The book includes an introduction and nine chapters. Chapter one offers historical evidence that the relations between Roman Catholics and Protestants have changed. For example, they participate in mission efforts together. Chapter two looks at the conflict between the two groups in the 1950s. The authors suggest reasons why the situation has changed more recently in chapter three.

The next four chapters is meant to "inform" the readers of many of the dialogues and agreements between Protestants and Catholics since Vatican 2. Chapter four gives a history of these ecumenical dialogues. Chapter five provides a guide and commentary on the Catholic Catechism. This was a most helpful chapter. It showed the core beliefs of Catholics and how much of this can be accepted by evangelicals. The authors believe that the Catechism "is the best pace to look when seeking to understand what the Catholic Church teaches and what Catholics believe. As mentioned earlier, much is the Catechism would be supportive of the evangelical tradition. In addition, the authors show what teachings Evangelicals can accept and others they will have problem accepting.

Chapter seven informs the reader of negative reactions to the ecumenical dialogues and agreements. After describing evangelicals less informed about what Rome teaches. The authors describe leading evangelicals who should know better. For example, the authors state that after the first Evangelicals and Catholics together was signed, R. C. Sproul said, "I am convinced as were the Reformers, that justification by faith alone is essential to the gospel and that Rome clearly rejects it" (187). This is after different groups of Protestants and Catholics have agreed on the definition of justification. There were also pressure put on evangelical signers of the document. Some of these signers later removed their names from the document. Noll even notes that he was one of the signers.

An additional bonus to the book is that it included an annotated bibliography. This would be helpful for someone who wants to go deeper in the subject. In the last chapter the authors wrestle with their question, "Is the Reformation over?" Their answer is it basically depends. They answer both yes and no. In addition, they suggest that this might not be the most important question.

I loved this book. It is one of the best books I have read on Roman Catholicism from the perspective of an evangelical. I admire Mark Noll's skills even more after reading this book. This book is well-researched and the authors make extra effort in being as objective as possible. A similar book that addresses the issues of this book from a Catholic perspective is William M. Shea's The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America.   

Friday, August 8, 2014

Postmodernism 101

White, Heath. Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006.

White begins his book by asking the question, "Why read about postmodernism?" In answering this question he gives his motivation for writing this book. He kept hearing about postmodernism in various Christian "circles." There were Christians who wanted to understand these discussions, but did not know "what postmodernism was." Other Christians knew about it and wanted to "think more deeply" about how it could be applied to current Christian thinking. They were unable to do this without further knowledge.

White thought he could help different groups of Christians by writing this book. In Postmodernism 101 he seeks to explain what postmodernism is what issues it raises for Christianity in the twenty-first century. The author identifies himself as an evangelical Protestant in the introduction. He has written the book, however, for all types of Christians who have questions about postmodernism. White is a philosophy professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He earned his doctorate at Georgetown University.

Postmodernism 101 is a quick and easy read. It is only 176 pages but it reads much shorter. The prose and presentation of ideas a are quite clear. The author uses many illustrations and examples to illustrate his points. He does a good job in explaining key ideas and people associated with postmodernism. His explanations how a certain postmodern idea affects Christianity is quite helpful. This book is meant for the reader with little or no knowledge of postmodernism. The author includes an annotated bibliography for further reading at the back of the book. This is a good first book to begin reading about postmodernism. Another good point of the book is how the author compares pre-modern, modern, and post-modern thought.

The book includes seven chapters: "Why read about postmodernism?; "Premodern and modern minds;" "The postmodern turn against reason;" "Truth, power, and morality;" the self; "language and thought;" "inquiry and interpretation;" "culture and irony;" and "history and hope.

In the chapter on premodern and modern, he narrates the transition "from authority to reason." This is characterize by resisting traditional authorities like the Church. In addition, he notes, "faith in the power of reason is the central pillar of the modern worldview" (37). It is quite ironic that it is faith in reason. In our own times, people are losing faith in reason. Like Chesterton said, it is believers who are defending reason. The next chapter describes how postmodernism makes a "turn against reason." Postmodernism believes the modern project has failed.

The chapter on "truth, power, and morality" describes the denial of absolutes by postmodernism. It is thought that absolutes give people power over other people and this power is used to abuse others. The author thinks this denial of moral absolutes is troubling. He gives reasons for the necessity of moral absolutes.

One of my favorite chapters was the one on "inquiry and interpretation." The author notes, "for postmoderns, no knowledge is fully reliable and no concepts are absolutely indispensable. The reader is probably aware of the many attacks against foundationalism and certainty. Many Christians have accepted these critiques. Another postmodern idea is that everything is a text and needs to be interpreted. The author spends much time in the chapter on how postmodernism effects the way we think about interpreting the Bible. One aspect is the postmodernism emphasis that there are multiple meanings in the text. This actually agree with the pre-modern view of multiple senses in the Bible. This is one of the longer chapters in the book.

Postmodernism 101 is written as an introductory guide to postmodernism. It is written at a level that the beginner should be able to understand the concepts explained. The annotated bibliography will be useful for the reader who wants to go deeper.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Contending for the Faith

Wood, Ralph C. Contending for the Faith: The Church's Engagement with Culture. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2003. 218 pages. ISBN 0-918954-86-x

Ralph Wood in his book, Contending for the Faith: the Church's Engagement with Culture argues that churches must witness to the post-modern world. He believes that we are living in an "anti-cultural era: an era that is rejecting, with increasing vehemence, even the most basic requirements of life together and life before God" (1). He thinks the world is being "rebarbarized." The church can play a role in Christianizing the culture as it did in the Middle Ages. It can at least act as salt and culture to the culture. Wood notes, "The argument of this book is that Christian existence itself requires a culture: a realm where the most fundamental practices and doctrines of the church can be inculcated" (1). A the title implies the Church needs to engage the culture. One definition of engage is to "become involved in." The Church must not isolate itself from its culture. It must work within the American culture strengthening and transforming it.

Wood's goal is not to duplicate the work of H. Richard Niebuhr's, Christ and Culture. He is not going to offer one of the responses listed by Niebuhr. He thinks Niebuhr's book assumes that we live in a "Monolithic" culture. Wood thinks this is not true. Instead, the culture is "an immensely varied and dependent thing" (1). There are many cultures. He thinks the Church is called to create its own culture. He notes, "I will argue, in fact, that Scripture and Tradition provide the church with a distinctive kind of existence--with unique ways of birthing and dying, of becoming youthful and of growing old, of marrying and remaining single, of celebrating and sacrificing, of thinking and imagining, of worshiping the true God and protesting against false gods--and that these distinctive beliefs and practices constitute the church's own culture" (2). He denies that he is trying to create a Christian ghetto--Christian isolation from culture. Instead, the church will offer a culture that will revitalize the world. For example, the present culture seems to affirm death as shown in abortion and euthanasia. The Church will witness to the affirmation of life.

Ralph C. Wood is University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University. He is the author of The Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith and Cosmic Vision in Four American Novelists, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ Haunted South, and Chesterton: the Nightmare Goodness of God, and other published works.

The book includes ten chapters. Some of the major themes addressed in this work are: the Church and culture; alternatives to the current culture; problems with 'evangelical engagement with culture; Church's Colleges; "Creating a Christian Educational Culture;" skepticism and sentimentality; truth, beauty, and goodness; Christian Romance; faithfulness and piety.

Wood argues that the "church can best engage its individualist American culture precisely by seeking to remain uncompromisingly faithful to the community-centered Gospel" (78). This is in contrast to the failed liberal Protestantism that said the church must accommodate its message to the liberal culture. The author thinks we need something like the twentieth century Catholic revival and something the like the work of the Inklings--C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and others. The author argues that writes like these and the fiction of Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor have been "a source of theological vitality for evangelicals. Thousands of them have found, through Catholic figures such as these, that their own scholarly and church lives have been given theological rigor and depth" (81). This has been shown even in the work of Wood which has majored on Catholic authors like Flannery O'Connor.

In chapter five, Wood describes the challenges facing the Church's colleges. He describes the works of Burtchaell and Marsden which have documented the secularization of colleges and universities. Wood notes, "without rootage in Christian thinking--faith seeking understanding, the good of the intellect--Christian piety and morality eventually die, though they may thrive for a while" (87). This seems to imply that our culture is living on borrowed time. How long will the culture collapse because it has been separated from its Christian roots?

Another point made by Wood in this chapter are the importance of a Christian vision of education. He notes, "One evident result of an unabashedly Christian vision is that it enables the liberal arts to flourish as often do not in more secular settings" (91). Wouldn't it be better to champion the liberal arts in Christian colleges and universities than abandoning them like the secular universities?

In other chapters Wood argues for the importance of religious liturgy. In the context he discusses the importance of beauty and holiness in the context of worship. He also shows how even the "ugly" can be a vehicle to worship God. What we look as disfigured could be a picture of Christ. This reminds me of my reading from Nouwen this morning. He spent time working with the mentally handicapped. Many will not see a purpose for those severely handicapped, either mentally or physically. Nouwen tells how God uses these people to show Christ's love. They even teach us how to love. How often do the values of the world determine our own values? Why do we think people that are wounded are of less value than the successful and powerful in the world's eyes?

Wood's Contending for the Faithful is a good read. It shows how the Church can be more beneficial to the culture by being true to its own teaching. However, the main purpose to being faithful is to glorify God. As the Westminster confessions says that our first duty is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Wood tries to lead a path between liberalism and fundamentalism. This book is written mainly for evangelicals. In it Wood encourages them to retrieve Catholic tradition, liturgy, and culture to revitalize their own tradition. It provides good advice on engaging the postmodern culture of our day.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Art of Reading Scripture

The Art of Reading Scripture edited by Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003. 334 pages. ISBN 0802812694

In the introduction, Davis and Hays note, "The difficulty of intepreting the Bible is felt not only in secular culture but also in the church at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Is the Bible authoritative for the faith and practice of the church? If so, in what way? What practices of reading offer the most appropriate approach to understanding the Bible? How does historical criticism illumine or obscure Scripture's message? How are traditional readings to be brought into engagement with historical methodologies, as well as feminist, liberationist, and postmodern readings? The church's lack of clarity about these issues has hindered its witness and mission, causing it to speak with an uncertain voice to the challenge of our time. Even where the Bible's authority is acknowledged in principle, many of our churches seem to have lost the art of reading it attentively and imaginatively" (xiv-xv).

These questions led the Center of Theological Inquiry (Princeton, New Jersey) to assemble fifteen scholars and pastors to meet "periodically over four years" to study these questions. They name this conversation "the Scripture Project." The project came up with nine principles of interpretation of Scripture. These nine "Theses" is described at the beginning of the book. Each of the essays address some or all of these principles. Here they are:

1. Scripture truthfully tells the story of God's action of creating, judging, and saving the world.

2. Scripture is rightly understood in the light of the church's rule of faith as a coherent dramatic narrative.

3. Faithful interpretation of Scripture requires an engagement with the entire narrative: the New Testament cannot be rightly understood apart from the Old, nor can the Old be rightly understood apart from the New.

4. Texts of Scripture do not have a single meaning limited to the intent of the original author. In accord with Jewish and Christian traditions, we affirm that Scripture has multiple complex senses given by God, the author of the whole drama.

5. The four canonical Gospels narrate the truth about Jesus.

6. Faithful interpretation of Scripture invites and presupposes participation in the community brought into being by God's redemptive action--the church.

7. The saints of the church provide guidance in how to interpret and perform Scripture.

8. Christians need to read the Bible in dialogue with diverse others outside the church.

9. We live in the tension between the "already" and the "not yet" of the kingdom of God; consequently, Scripture calls the church to ongoing discernment, to continually fresh rereadings of the text in light of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work in the world.

This volume gathered some of the best biblical interpreters of our day. The group includes Gary A. Anderson, University of Notre Dame; Richard Bauckham, University of St. Andrews; Brian E. Daley, University of Notre Dame; Ellen F. Davis, Duke Divinity School; Richard B. Hays, Duke Divinity School; James C. Howell, Methodist Pastor; Robert W. Jenson, Center of Theological Inquiry; William Stacy Johnson, Princeton Theological Seminary; L. Gregory Jones, Duke Divinity School; Christine McSpadden, Episcopal Priest; R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham; David C. Steinmetz, Duke Divinity School; and Marianne Meye Thompson, Fuller Theological Seminary. These authors do not all agree with each other. However, they are unified by the Scripture Project and the Christian faith. They provide many different perspectives that will enlighten the reader. It is like going to a feast with many different dishes. I felt my faith challenged and engaged by these essays.

The book includes four parts: reading and teaching the Scriptures; "A Living Tradition;" "Reading Difficult Texts;" and "Selected Sermons." Some of the themes of the essays: teaching the Bible confessionally; the authority of the Scripture for the church; reading the Scriptures as a "cohereent story;" Patristic exegesis; model interpreters; Scripture reading and postmodernism; "embodying Scripture in the community of faith, and others.

There are many positives to this volume. I like the emphasis of reading the Scriptures in the context of the church. The authors accept the work of historical criticism but they want to go beyond it. They believe the scriptures is the book of the church. It is to be interpreted by the church. In addition, I like the emphasis on the multiple senses of the Scriptures. Readers will learn much here that can enhance their reading and teaching of Scripture.

One might think that because of the scholarly nature of the book that it is written for scholars. It is definitely not. I found the essays quite readable and enjoyable. I think the general adult reader should not have a problem of reading these essays. I especially like how these writers interpret the hard tasks of scripture like the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. There is much wisdom here in helping us to be better interpreters of Scripture. It was also helpful to see how Jewish scholars can help us interpret the Old Testament and make even the New Testament come alive. I might not agree with everything in this volume, but I agree with a lot of it. I found myself haven a deeper appreciation of Scripture from reading ths volume.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Evangelicals and Postliberals in Conversation

The Nature of Confession: Evangelicals & Postliberals in Conversation edited by Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996. 298 pages. ISBN: 0-8038-1869-3

The Nature of Confession was one of Christianity Today's Book of the year. It brought together Postliberals and Evangelicals to discuss issues they agreed on and differed. It including many of the leading theologians of our day: Alister McGrath, Miroslav Volf, George Lindbeck, Rodney Clapp, David Clark, George Hunsinger and others. IT includes six parts: (1) Introduction; (2) Evangelical critiques; (3) "Realism and Foundationalism; (4) "The Bible & the Church;" (5) "Theology and the Christian Life;" (6) "Putting the Postliberal Model to Work." The last part includes a panel discussion with Lindbeck, Hunsinger, McGrath & Fackre. There is really only two negative critiques by McGrath and Volf. I was disappointed by McGrath's essay, but I was impressed by Volf's essay. I think it is a more effective critique. This is despite my being an admirer of McGrath's work. I was even dissapointed with his comments in the panel discussion.

A common theme in these discussions is a conversation with the project of postliberalism as connected with George Lindbeck's The Nature of Doctrine. Lindbeck is surprised by this since he says the true founder of postsecularism is Hans Frei. Another important Postsecularist not part of the conversation was Stanley Hauerwas. The occasion for this book was a conversation held at Wheaton College dedicated to discussing postliberalism and evangelicalism.  This conversation concentrates much on a critique of foundationalism.

George Lindbeck begins the panel discussion my listing six points. First, he thinks comparing evangelicals and postliberals is "like comparing apples and oranges. Postliberals happen to be a collection of individuals engaged in what science calls a research program, whereas evangelicals are members of communities, institutions, movements that are historically associated with inerrancy controversies on the one hand and conversionist revivalism on the other" (246).

Second, the project of postliberals is "an attempt to recover premodern scriptural interpretation in contemporary form" (246). This can be taken in a couple different ways. First, it can operate on the basis of multiple senses of Scripture. For example, the five senses of Thomas Aquinas. Second, the Scriptures are a book of the Church. It needs to be interpreted in the context of the Church and Christian tradition. Another important implication is the importance of community. This would also urge a resistance to excessive modern individualism.

He points out that this research program "overlaps . . . with goals that a number of evangelicals have" (247). He suggests recovering "both the Reformation and Catholic heritages" (247). In other words, it aligns with attempts of evangelicals to renew the faith by retrieving the Catholic tradition.

In his fourth point he seems to respond to McGrath's critique about a lack of substantial theology coming from this project. He thinks this critique is "misplaced." He notes, "It's misplaced because the research program is one regarding methods of reading Scripture, not specifically regarding the development of any single theological outlook. If I do theology, it's Lutheran theology in the Lutheran confessional tradition" (247).

In his fifth point he describes his realization of his differences with evangelicals in his interactions with them. He knew it before, but it became more obvious at the conference. Lindbeck notes, "I'm much more creedal than most of the people here. I place more emphasis on creeds, confessions and dogmas. I'm sacramentally realistic in a way that free church people are not. I have much higher ecclesiology than most of the people here" (247). I think this is changing with evangelicals. More evangelicals are seeing a need for creeds and confessions. They are also drawn to liturgy and Catholic tradition. Many are trying to create a sacramental view of life.

In his last point, he notes that Hans Frei is the true founder of postsecularism.

There are many excellent essays in this volume. I especially enjoyed the many different critiques of foundationalism. Some of the essays responded to what they thought were misinterpretations. For example, Jeffrey Hensley showed how postliberalism does not have to be interpreted an anti-realists. George Hunsinger presents an evaluation of the debate between Carl Henry and Hans Frei. He shows how evangelicals and postliberals can learn from each other. It is hoped that this conversation will help both evangelicals and postliberals to understand each other better.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Who Needs a Liberal Education?

Gilbert Meilaender, "Who needs a Liberal Education?," The New Atlantis, Number 41, Winter 2014, pp. 101-108.

Who needs a Liberal Arts Education?

The main purpose of this article is to argue for the importance of a liberal arts education. Meilander, however, suggests that there are correct and incorrect ways to defend a liberal arts education. Quite surprisingly, he argues against having a core curricula and argues for specialization. Why would this author argue in this way? In addition, he seeks to address the question who needs a liberal education.

One argument the author is making that some of the things that are defended by "educational traditionalists and defenders of the liberal arts" are not necessarily good for a liberal arts education. One of these things is the defense of core curricula. Another is the "bemoaning of the rise of specialization among faculty" (2). Another argument the author makes is that the "notion of 'interdisciplinary' study is misguided" (3). In addition, the author argues room must be made for the natural sciences. Lastly, the author concludes, "it may simply be true that education in the liberal arts is not intended for or needed by many students" (6).

The evidence the author uses in this article to support his arguments are student indebtedness, a definition of liberal arts, disciplinary knowledge, student interest, and vocation. He notes that many students do not want to be in these general education courses. In addition, their "energies are focused mostly on other aspects of the curriculum" (2). The author actually thinks we should have few required courses. He thinks that simply adding educational courses to students coming to college to earn a degree in business, nursing, education, or some other professional field does not make it a liberal arts education. He defines the liberal arts as being free. He notes, "they are free in the sense that they serve no goal external to themselves" (2). In other words, a liberal arts education is not training for a job. Neither are they to make us "good citizens." The author thinks the true goal of a liberal arts education is "an openness to what transcends us" (6). It is a freedom to pursue truth and wisdom.

What are the implications of the article? Should we give up general education courses? Should we give up interdisciplinary studies? The author thinks that the future liberal arts students should "look for schools where the specialized academic disciplines are valued and cultivated" (3). In addition, he argues that "no one's knowledge is narrower than the non-specialist, who knows a very little about a very lot" (3). These words seems quite strong. Does this condemn all interdisciplinary studies? Is there a difference between disciplinary studies at undergraduate and graduate levels? The author believes we get at truth from a disciplinary perspective. It is specialists in different disciplines in conversation about truth:

"But why do we need students of philosophy, literature, history, or religion? What is their study for? The point of this sort of education is simply that we want to understand ourselves and to know the truth about human life, whether about individual lives as we might examine them in literature or philosophy, or life in society as we might examine it in political theory or sociology. To be sure, an education in the liberal arts will sometimes be more about seeking than finding this truth. There are no guarantees. At its best, however, it draws us into a centuries-old conversation among specialists--scholars from various disciplines, each providing us a different angle from which to examine what it means to be human" (3).

Meilaender makes a strong case for his argument. He defends a liberal arts education, but, maybe, not in the way we would expect. Not everyone will want to follow his suggestions. Do we really want few required courses? Do we really want no general education requirements? Is career training really the purpose of education?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology

Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology, edited by Linda Zagzebski. University of Notre Dame Press, 1993. 290 pages. ISBN: 0-268-01644-5.

A popular new movement in epistemology arguing for the rationality of religious belief is "Reformed Epistemology." It is called this because of it's origin in Calvinist theology. Some of the major thinkers are Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, George Mavrodes, and others. One of the key texts is Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God. This was published in 1983. Plantinga would later revise his ideas in a later book, Warrant and Proper Function.

Reformed Epistemology has been largely unnoticed by Roman Catholic Philosophers. This neglect is addressed in this book: Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology. The contributors to this volume include John Greco, Patrick Lee, Ralph McInerny, Hugo Meynell, Philip L. Quinn, James Ross, Thomas Sullivan, Linda Zagzebski, and John Zeis. All of the contributors are professional philosophers at some of the leading universities: Fordham University, University of Notre Dame, University of Calgary, and others. The authors show a firm grasp of Reformed Epistemology and its contributors. They do a good job in critiquing their works and showing problems with it. They also address the issue of natural theology. Reformed Epistemology and Calvinist theology seems to argue against natural theology. Catholic philosophy has defended it historically. The contributors of this volume argue for the necessity and the usefulness of natural theology.

There are many things I like about this book. It provides a good commentary of Reformed Epistemology. It shows where they agree with it and where they disagree. They provide arguments for at least the usefulness of natural theology. The authors seem to be engaging Plantinga, Wolterstorff, and others in a respectful way. It does not seem they are setting up straw men for them to knock down. The Catholic philosophers do not agree with each other on every point. Some seem closer to Reformed Epistemology than others. Some seem to be foundationalists, while others do not.

For example, "both foundationalism and evidentialism are strongly defended" in the paper by Hugo Meynell, "Faith, Foundationalism, and Nicholas Wolterstorff." Thomas D. Sullivan disagrees with more moderately with Reformed Epistemology. The editor summarizing Sullivan's paper notes, "Sullivan agrees with Plantinga that believers are right to refuse to pare down confidence in a putative revelation in the face of unanswered objections. But his justification for such resolute belief is different from Plantinga's. The attempt to justify absolute conviction cannot be made successfully on Plantinga's account of warrant, Sullivan argues, but must instead be justified by reference to certain functions of the will that make revelation both reasonable and objective. Sullivan answers objections from the rationalist and the evidentialist in the course of defending a position similar to John Henry Newman" (8). This idea is that faith is caused by both the mind and the will. It is similar to the position of Thomas Aquinas.

Other contributors speak of the ethics of belief. According to their interpretation of Plantinga, he seems to suggest that in the right situation and proper machinery, belief just happens. It is naturally implanted in us. Patrick Lee argues "that the function that reasons or evidence play in a reasonable act of belief is morally responsible act or that one morally ought to believe" (8). This seem to suggest that we have responsibility in believing or not believing.

I appreciated James Ross' reflections on those who do not believe: "But it is a harsh view that those who do not believe that God exists (and accept revelation) are caused not to do so by their unrighteousness and that by that unrighteousness have wills opposed to God and deserve so as to deserve damnation. That seems totally implausible, especially when a kind of atheistic naturalism can be as well warranted by the means of rational reliance (natural faith) as the right belief, since warrant from the aims of the rational appetite can extend to what is not true as well as to what is true. . . Still, whether one's unbelief amounts to a will opposed to God cannot be determined from the externals of unbelief alone but only from the inner heart visible to God. So we are not entitled to attribute unrighteousness to unbelievers from their unbelief" (247). These are words that I heartily commend. Too often we attribute evil motives to those who disagree with us. There is a difference between faith and reason; however, they are compatible. We should do our best to respect the beliefs of others as we witness to the Christian faith.

In "Religious Knowledge and the Virtues of the Mind" Linda Zagzebski discusses three characteristics of Reformed Epistemology she disagrees with and provides characteristics that an epistemology must have to be considered knowledge. One objection she has is that it is "belief-based rather than person-or virtue-based"(222). Other features she disagrees with are they are based on "externalism-nonvoluntarism" and "individualism. She seems to be arguing that the believer has no control over what she believes. For example she notes, "Plantinga stresses that we do not decide what to believe. Typically, he says, I simply find myself with the appropriate belief"(203). The other objection is that it is individualistically based versus community based. She argues that Catholics look at revelation as something given to the church and not the individual. One would find warrant within the church. Other authors see the faith being confirmed in living it out in Christian practices.

Rational Faith provides an excellent critique of Reformed Epistemology. It shows some of its weaknesses. Some of these weaknesses have been addressed in more recent works. Reformed Epistemology still seems to have many followers today. This book does a good job in introducing us to a conversation taking place between Catholic and Protestant Reformed philosophers on the rationality of religious belief.